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There is denial of abuse at all levels of society and, although it is painful to accept, it is a reality we need to own as a community before we can make any impression on it. It’s not ‘somebody else’s problem’ and it’s not ‘up to the authorities to worry about’. It’s up to every one of us. There can be absolutely no doubt that silence about sexuality serves the needs of the adults who are perpetrators of child abuse, not the children who are their victims. Until recently it was never discussed, as if it just didn’t exist. To find the reasons for ignoring the problem we don’t need to look beyond the painful realities. To acknowledge sexual abuse means stirring up feelings of disgust, rage, guilt, insecurity, and fear — emotions most people would understandably avoid if only the stakes were not so high for the victims.
And the question also needs to be asked: What does the community have to gain by this silence? Why would society want to protect this secret for so long?
Part of the answer must lie in a general reluctance to talk about sexuality at all. At a deeper level, what we have come to learn about sexual abuse rocks the very foundation of our society because it challenges the functioning of the family unit. This is the unit that is supposed to nurture children, take care of their needs and prepare them for life as an adult. So it is astonishing that over eighty-five percent of cases of abuse occur where a child should be able to feel secure and protected: in or near their own home. It can be a single incident but they are usually repeated attacks that can go on for years whenever the child is accessible to the offender.
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